Long eaten by indigenous populations, palm hearts have also popular abroad, usually in fine dining establishments. However, palm hearts are cut-out of the inner core of various palm tree species, in some cases killing the tree. A new study published in mongabay.com’s open access journal Tropical Conservation Science looks at the sustainability of palm heart extraction from the palm species Prestoea acuminata in the Colombian Andes. While harvesting from Prestoea acuminata does not kill the host tree, better management is needed to ensure the practice doesn’t become unsustainable.
The researchers found that it took Prestoea acuminata 23-40 years before it reached a suitable size for palm heart extraction. Given this slow growth, and the fact that over-harvesting from a plant can impact sexual reproduction, the authors recommend that only 10 percent of any population be harvested annually.
“Our results show that the sustainable harvest potential of Prestoea acuminata under natural conditions is too low to be economically viable. However, sustainable household extraction, as for traditional consumption by Indians and campesinos, is possible,” they write.
In the Colombian Andes, palm hearts are extremely popular during Holy Week when eating meat is not allowed. The authors say future research should look at the size of this practice and whether it is unsustainable.
CITATION: Gamba-Trimiño, C., Bernal, R. and Bittner, J. 2011. Demography of the clonal palm Prestoea acuminata in the Colombian Andes: sustainable household extraction of palm hearts. Tropical Conservation Science Vol. 4(4):386-404.
(11/27/2011) Eight Amazon countries pledged greater cooperation in efforts to protect the world’s largest rainforest from deforestation and illegal mining and logging, reports AFP.
(06/02/2011) A new airplane-based remote-sensing and analysis system will enable scientists to catalog tree species as they create three-dimensional maps of tropical forests. Unveiled today at the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos, California by Greg Asner of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Global Ecology, the newest version of the Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) will offer powerful insights into the composition and biology of tropical forests.
(05/18/2011) The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis) had not been recorded since 1898 and was thought possibly extinct—that is until one showed up at 9:30 PM on May 4th at a lodge in El Dorado Nature Reserve in northern Colombia. ‘He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing,’ said Lizzie Noble, a British volunteer with Fundacion ProAves.